Consent and the Individual Detained in Custody
Medicine and Law: World Association for Medical Law 2005 September; 24(3): 515-523
It has been acknowledged that autonomy is one of the prima facie principles in modern medical practice and integral to the interchange between doctor and patient even if that meeting does not fulfil the normal criteria for a consultation. The lead having been taken by other jurisdictions, the General Medical Council, the UK national regulatory body for doctors, has now acknowledged the concept of informed consent that was first espoused in cases such as Rogers v. Whitaker. In regard to the concept of informed consent, there are three pertinent issues that the Forensic Physician should consider in deciding upon the adequacy of this: Did that person have capacity in the eyes of the law? The Forensic Physician may be asked to examine individuals whose age span ranges from the newly born to the elderly and there will be potential conflict of interest between parent and child or elderly people and their carers. Even if adequate information was imparted, did a person under the (significant) influence of alcohol or drugs understand the likely implications that would flow from their decision? Was the individual concerned given appropriate information beforehand--in other words, was the consent truly informed? Was the consent given voluntarily? Voluntariness is probably the most significant ethical worry likely to confront the doctor, particularly when examining an individual for fitness to be detained or fitness to be interviewed, both categories of which make up the main work load in this sub-specialty. The thorny ethical dilemmas faced in this specialty are considered and how the professional standard originally defined in Hunter v Hanley and re- iterated in the Bolam test (with subsequent modification in Bolitho) affect the way in which the clinician deals with the problems is likely to face.
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